Coach Byrne reaches the magic 300, and the
team is No. 1
together now: Softball coach John Byrne (left, at the
back) is barely visible above the members of the Moravian
women’s softball team as they join hands at the end
of a huddle.
Wow! Second time this year! Mary Beth Spirk
coached the 300th win of her career in women’s basketball
back in January. And John Byrne ’82, a.k.a. JB, chalked up his 300th
winning softball game in March. They join an elite group at Moravian that holds
Gillespie, who coached baseball (1935-74), and Jim Walker, men’s basketball
coach, who tripped the 300 line in 2002.
Just days after JB’s 300th,
it was announced that Moravian’s softball
team was No. 1 in the nation, according to a poll issued by the National
Fastpitch Coaches Association Division III.
All because John Byrne of North
Wales liked Moravian College and decided
to stay on after graduation. He was a political science major who had played
baseball, so, of course, he went to work in the Admissions Office, where
three years. He gravitated toward athletic recruiting and became coordinator,
with “one foot in one office and one in the other.”
moved over to Athletics, continuing as a recruiter, and became an assistant
baseball coach, helped with football, and coached volleyball
took a sabbatical. Four years ago, he became an assistant athletic director.
he was offered the position of head softball coach, and he’s been
happy ever since.
(JB happy looks pretty much the same as JB
pensive, furious, or funny, but there are little crinkles
around his eyes that
clue you in.)
He hasn’t changed much in 22 years,
except that his hairline is a little farther back. He married
at 35; he and his
wife, Genevieve, have two girls, Rachel,
3, and Jamie, 2. “It’s a change for me,” he says. “People
tell me I’ve calmed down.”
His other family is all female,
too: the 18 women of the 2003-04 softball team. Every year, there
are more team photos and team honors
walls of his
office, back behind the concession stand at the south end of Johnston
been coaching long enough that one of his former players, Becky
an all-American pitcher in her undergraduate days, is his assistant
coach for pitching.
For a baseball player, isn’t softball
kind of—well, slow?
“It’s actually a faster-paced
game,” he says. “It’s a
shorter game. There’s a lot of opportunities for bunting
and stealing.” (The
distance between bases is 60 feet, compared with 90 feet in
challenging to coach.”
And then, coaching women has its
own challenges and rewards. “They’re
very receptive and eager, they work hard, and they’re
fun to be around,” he
says. “I coach them as athletes, and as athletes they
Softball was in pretty good shape
when he took over. But Mary Beth had been the coach for
softball in addition to
women’s basketball, and she was finding
it tough to work two sports. In 1993, she took the basketball
team to post-season play while “the softball team
left for Florida [spring training] with an assistant coach,” says
JB. “It was the right timing” for softball
to have a coach of its own.
In his early years at Moravian,
JB also was an associate scout for the Cincinnati Reds,
keeping an eye on regional
talent. “That helped me in
my recruiting and my coaching,” he says.
NCAA Division III, he has no financial incentives to
offer incoming students. “So
I look for kids who could go to Division I or II but
who want a smaller school,” he
says. “They can always change their minds, though.
You never know who you have until the first day of
In his decade-plus of coaching softball,
he’s worked with the best student-athletes
at the College. “We’re turning out good
solid kids,” he says
This year the team has biology, pre-med,
business, and criminal justice majors. “The
overwhelming majority have a 3.0 [or better] and
are on the dean’s list.
And on top of that, they’re great kids. They’re
wonderful ambassadors for the College,” he
says. “You can’t pay for that kind
of publicity” that a winning team gets.
of all, “I’m able to coach at my alma
mater,” he says.
And means it.
John Byrne '82 wins his 300th game
and Moravian's softball team is named
first in the nation.
group of new faculty for 2004-05
gets $10,000 grant to co-sponsor Black
Women's Health Initiative.
Bernstein "Mass" is
big event of spring concert season.